Security Sector Reform (SSR) aims to enhance Security Sector Governance (SSG) through the effective and efficient delivery of security under conditions of democratic oversight and control. SSR offers a framework for conceptualising which actors and factors are relevant to security in a given environment as well as methodology for optimising the use of available security resources. [1]

What is Security Sector Reform?

SSR is generally defined as a process of transforming the security sector to strengthen accountability, effectiveness, and respect for human rights and the rule of law. The security sector is a broad term used to describe the structures, institutions and personnel responsible for the management, provision and oversight of security in a country.[2] SSR strives toward improving Security Sector Governance (SSG), a term referring to the multi-stakeholder oversight process by which a security sector is internally and externally governed.

Good Governance in the Security Sector:

  • Security forces are capable of delivering security professionally, at a reasonable cost, and in a way that helps to ensure the rule of law
  • Security sector is representative of the population as a whole. It is inclusive, adequately reflecting a country’s various communities and gender sensitive
  • Security forces operate transparently providing information to the public
  • A country’s security objectives and policies are set out in a National Security Policy and its supporting documents that define the respective tasks and responsibilities of the various components of the security sector
  • Executive and civilian management authorities in charge of the security forces are capable of giving them proper direction and management
  • Security forces are overseen by, and accountable to, democratically-constituted civilian authorities in charge of their activities
  • The security sector is accountable to a robust judicial and legal framework
  • Civil society and non-governmental actors with a role in monitoring the governance of the security sector are active and can operate independently
  • Domestic security sector actors are capable of smoothly interacting with one another
  • Domestic security sector actors are well integrated into regional and international security frameworks[3]

Why is it important?

SSR assumes that effective and democratic security delivery is fundamental for reducing poverty and for sustainable economic, social and political development.[4] SSR’s main objective is to attain an effective, efficient and well governed security provision system. SSR aims to ensure that the appropriate level of resources is attributed to the security services so that the rest can be duly invested into social and economic development. A functional security sector is a precondition for democratisation. A well-functioning security sector contributes towards regional stability and enhances opportunities for international cooperation.[5]

How does it work?

SSR is a coordinated series of actions designed to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of a state’s security sector. These actions can be comprised into the following steps or phases:

  • Review, assessment and identification of risks and challenges over short and long-term.
  • Design, planning and consultation. The results of the assessment are used to elaborate a strategy or an action plan.
  • Financial Planning. Any reform must be closely considered and monitored in terms of financial requirements, establishing priorities and optimising resources.
  • Public Information. A sustained and convincing public information effort is required if SSR is to be understood and accepted by the security establishment as well as by the population at large.
  • Implementation.  The reforms are implemented according to the established plan and time-frame.
  • Monitoring, evaluation and adjustment. Effective SSR requires mechanisms to monitor reform implementation and outcomes and to adjust programmes in light of any changes. Monitoring is essential in order to evaluate progress and success of the reform.[6]


According to CIDS’s Integrity Action Plan, a comprehensive SSR process will examine all of the following main areas and reform/adjust where necessary in accordance with the principles of good security sector governance:

  • Political aspects (parliamentary oversight, public defence and security policies, access to defence budgets, inclusion of civil society in debates about Security Sector and SSR, oversight of intelligence services, oversight of arms deals, anti-corruption policy and regulations, and international standards and conventions)
  • Financial aspects (planning and budgeting, financial management, transparency, secret budgets regulation, audit, inspector generals, acquisition, procurement, and the legal framework and regulations concerning budgets and security sector finances)
  • Human Resources (human resources management, gender, regulations on payroll, promotions and rewards, codes of conduct, conflicts of interest, building integrity trainings, rules concerning gifts, whistle-blowing system and corresponding whistle-blower protection, ombuds institutions, prosecution and disciplinary mechanisms)[7]


Who is involved?[8]

SSR involves a wide range of national, regional and international actors. On a national scale this includes: the executive (head of state, government, other decision-making bodies); ministry of defence and other ministries; armed forces and security agencies (police, gendarmerie, intelligence services, border guards, customs officials, private security contractors); the legislature (parliament and relevant committees); the judicial, law enforcement and penal institutions; civil society actors (media, think tanks, civil society organisations). Regional and international organisations also play a key role in SSR by providing support and expertise.



Centre for Integrity in the Defence Sector.  Criteria for Good Governance in the Defence Sector: International Standards and Principles (2015)

Centre for Integrity in the Defence Sector. Integrity Action Plan. A handbook for practitioners in defence establishments (2014)

Centre for Integrity in the Defence Sector (2015) Guides to Good Governance.

DCAF (2011), Albrecht Schnabel and Hans Born, SSR Paper 1: Security Sector Reform: Narrowing the Gap between Theory and Practice.

DCAF (2009), Defence Reform. Backgrounder.  

DCAF (2009), Gender and Security Sector Reform, Backgrounder.

DCAF (2009), Police Reform. Backgrounder.

DCAF (2009), Security Sector Governance and Reform Backgrounder.  

DCAF (2009), Security Sector Reform and Intergovernmental Organisations. Backgrounder.  

DCAF – UNDP (2008) Public Oversight of the Security Sector. A handbook for civil society organisations

DCAF (2015) Parliamentary Brief: Building Integrity in Defence.

NATO-DCAF (2010), Building Integrity and Reducing Corruption in Defence: A Compendium of Best Practices.

Transparency International (2011). Building Integrity and Countering Corruption In Defence and Security: 20 Practical Reforms.

New editions of the DCAF SSR Backgrounder Series


[1] Source: DCAF (2009), Security Sector Governance and Reform Backgrounder. New series available at:

[2] DCAF (2009), Gender and Security Sector Reform, Backgrounder. New series available at:

[3] DCAF (2009), Security Sector Reform and Intergovernmental Organisations. Backgrounder. New series available at:

[4] DCAF (2009), Police Reform. Backgrounder. New series available at:

[5] DCAF (2009), Security Sector Governance and Reform. Backgrounder. New series available at:

[6] DCAF (2009), Defence Reform. Backgrounder. See also: CIDS (2015), Integrity Action Plan.

[7] CIDS (2015), Integrity Action Plan, p. 27.

[8] DCAF (2009), Defence Reform. Backgrounder. New series available at:


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